Mental health

Manifesto of the Mennonite Anti-Mission Association

We are Mennonites (and fellow travelers) who reject the church’s mission activities.

We believe Christian mission, historically, goes hand-in-hand with cultural destruction. We love human diversity and seek to preserve it. Thus, we oppose evangelistic crusades and mission boards that proselytize, no matter how well-meaning they claim to be.

We reject the authenticity of the so-called “Great Commission” (Matt. 28:19-20). We simply don’t think Jesus said it. Most New Testament scholars doubt its authenticity as well, for a couple reasons. Firstly, any statements supposedly made by Jesus after his death must be called into question. Secondly, if Jesus told his followers to go out and convert the world, then the debate about the inclusion of Gentiles during Paul’s time makes little sense. To modern scholars, the “Great Commission” sounds more like the post-70-A.D. church talking than the historical Jesus.
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Jesus sayings from the Sermon on the Mount (the Marginal Mennonite version)

(Revised November 2011)

The Sermon on the Mount is defined as the 40+ sayings of Jesus found in Matthew 5, 6 and 7. About half of those sayings are considered by scholars to be non-authentic (meaning they were likely created by the early church rather than originating with Jesus). Non-authentic sayings are not included here. Most Sermon sayings have parallels in other gospels (Mark, Luke & Thomas). Sometimes the parallels are in simpler form, and thus probably closer to what Jesus actually said. Listed below are 21 of the most authentic Sermon sayings, along with Torah passages that Jesus probably had in mind when formulating them. Similar sayings from other traditions are offered as well.

Luke 6:20: “Congratulations, you poor! God’s kingdom belongs to you.”

Compare to:

Matthew 5:3: “Congratulations to the poor in spirit! Heaven’s domain belongs to them.”

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Mennonites on the Bowery

Photo of Weaverland Choir by CharlieK

There’s a building boom on the Bowery these days. It’s been happening for a while, but the last couple years have witnessed an escalation in development, turning the neighborhood into a hip destination point.

Fifty years ago the Bowery was the largest skid row in the world. There were gin joints and flophouses on every block. That’s all gone now, thanks to the forces of gentrification. In their place are condos, art galleries and upscale eateries. Only one skid-row relic remains: the Bowery Mission.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting behind the Mission’s pulpit in the 1960s, looking onto a sea of expectant faces while my father preached. In retrospect I realize the men behind those faces were awaiting the sermon’s conclusion so they could get their grub. (more…)

Lifelines and the Happy Gospel

Church Marquee

Before I begin, let me offer full disclosure: I have suffered from depression and anxiety on and off for more than five years. Granted, my illness falls fairly low on the spectrum, but the fact that I’ve left a couple jobs because of the overwhelming experiences of anxiety shows you that this has caused a serious and ongoing struggle in my life.

For me, there has been no life experience more isolating and terrifying than the severe, debilitating moments of a panic attack.

I have been fortunate enough in my journey to be comforted and supported by loved ones—my wife, family, friends, counselors—in the midst of despair, many of whom were also members of the faith community to which I belonged.

But I am at the same time painfully aware that many who have walked the same journey through depression and other mental and emotional ailments have not experienced the same level of grace within their congregation.

While most haven’t been outright rejected, a common experience for many of us with mental illnesses is to feel marginalized, judged—or, worst of all, avoided—as if our ailments fall low on the priority list of concerns, they are a result of a lack of faith or selfish ignorance of the obvious blessings in our lives, or they create too much uncertainty, discomfort or risk to address. (more…)

Can we envision and create access?

Friendship

“As a church have we forgotten how to go to the lengths of cutting open a roof and lowering our disabled friend in through the ceiling just so they could meet Jesus?”

– Julie Clawson, from “Americans with Disabilities and the Church”, a July 2010 entry on her blog, One Hand Clapping

In church circles we often plaster phrases like “everyone is welcome” and “come as you are” across lawn marquees and in Sunday morning bulletins. But how often do we back that language up with authentic, Christlike inclusion?

More specifically, what are some ways we fail to remove barriers and obstacles to worship for our brothers and sisters who bring disabilities (or different cultural gender experiences, role, or sexual orientation) with them into the sanctuary on Sunday morning?

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Jesus Radicals! Anarchism and Christianity

New Heaven, New Earth: Anarchism and Christianity Beyond Empire
August 14 & 15, 2009

Location
Caritas Village
2509 Harvard Avenue,
Memphis, TN 38112

This year’s anarchism and Christianity conference, hosted by Jesus Radicals, will look squarely at the economic and ecological crisis facing the globe, and point to signs of hope for creativity, for alternative living, for radical sharing, for faithfulness, for a new way of being. We are living in a karios moment that will either break us or compel us to finally strive for a new, sane way of life. The question we face at this pivotal time is not if our empires will fall apart, but when they will fall–and how will we face it? We hope you will join the conversation. (more…)

Love and Smoke

So I am really in love for the first time in a while. He’s a radical activist. He’s Mennonite. He’s brilliant. He would probably read and write on this blog if he was from the USA. But there is a big problem, he smokes tobacco (a lot). Or is that not a problem? I need your help, my radical friends…to help me think through the issues of smoking and tobacco usage. I can only really take love advice seriously from people who are in the movement for positive social change…people who understand a deep commitment to values that call us to put our “personal” love lives in perspective with the greater struggle of promotion of love and justice all over the world. I listen to others who I feel are be people of integrity on all levels of life.

What follows is what I think about smoking/what I’m struggling with/the questions I have. Please, if you have any wisdom to share…SHARE IT. As a feminist I am willing to put this out in the public because I do believe the personal is political. And I know that the relationships that individuals have also effect the collective.

I realized again that I’m a “God-geek” when I wanted to know something marriage a few weeks ago and so I looked at C. Arnold Snyder’s chapter titled “Anabaptist Marriage” in Anabaptist History and Theology textbook. My point was to see how these young activists handled marriage in the context of an intense social movement. (more…)

What happens in church on a Thursday night when you are not looking.

The church basement’s cinder block walls radiate the cold. Coffee permeates the air. Two dozen people or so sit at 8′ X 3′ wooden folding tables, set up in a circle, eating cake and drinking the aforementioned coffee. Another dozen or more sit at chairs placed around the room. My friend, we’ll call him Brian, sits at the front, the Serenity Prayer scrawled on a plaque on his right.

God, Grant me the serenity,
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

This is an A.A. meeting.

Brian is celebrating one year. He is chairing the meeting, which means he gets to tell his story, speak however long he likes, and call on any member he sees fit to call on. Before any of that can begin, though, the various “officers” read off various lists of A.A. “rules”, “codes of conduct”, and other bureaucratic regulations. You would think these to be many considering A.A. has a reported 1,867,212 members worldwide with 106,202 meetings.

To put this in perspective A.A. is about the same size as Jehovah’s Witnesses, and larger than the Assemblies of God in the USA. (more…)

living & dying well

I will not die an unlived life. I will not live in fear. –Dawna Markova

Over the summer, I was asked if I would be willing to teach a Sunday School class at my church on grief and loss. I agreed without any hesitation. When I recently sat down with the pastor, I realized that she had titled the class, “Living and Dying Well.” I had been thinking a lot about resources for loss, but the change in name reoriented me; now I am pondering what it means to live well. I could probably change the name of the class, but I’ve always loved a good challenge and it seems to me that they’re equally important and equally difficult discussions in the Western world.

When I think of living well, I think of laughter, good meals, a nice bottle of wine, practicing resurrection, community that shapes and sustains. But I wanted to pose this question to each of you, as well. As you go about your daily lives, whatever your goals and whatever your place in the formal economy, what does it mean to live well? How does it incarnate itself for you?

Intergenerational Activist Conversation

An older woman activist that I admire came up to me. She was obviously weary, and looked a bit as if she had just been crying. I had just received an email from her earlier, calling all the activists, who stand and witness for peace on Wednesdays at the Civic Plaza, to an emergency meeting. She asked me and my friend to come, saying in all sincerity, “we need a word of wisdom from the younger generation. We really aren’t sure what we should do.”

Only 2 or 3 people have been showing up in the last two months to the public witness here in town. Should we go on with our Wednesday 4:30pm vigils? Recently, the entire leadership of these vigils fell to this older woman–because others wouldn’t or couldn’t do it–and she was feeling exhausted. In addition to hoping to share the load with others, the sadness of the whole situation (16 more people were killed today in Iraq, for example) and the state of the world overwhelmed her. (more…)

Forgiveness time

Sigh. I’m exhausted from preparing for a mediation session tomorrow.

A white highly educated straight man new to the church community has remained apparently oblivious to racist and unkind remarks, gestures and communications that he has done in the last number of years. I spoke up about them after I’d been profoundly hurt. Now we are going to have a mediation session. I’m nervous about so many aspects of this conversation tomorrow. I was doing my homework, but I thought I’d write to YAR for encouragement since I can’t concentrate anyway.

I keep praying that I don’t get angry or try to make a point to make myself feel better/look better. Vengeance is not mine. I must entrust myself to the one who judges justly. But the balance is hard when I have to speak up for myself and for others who are still silent. I’m praying that no matter what happens, myself and others who have felt isolated and marginalized by his behavior will be able to move on and not let him control our lives at church. (more…)

Compassion and distress

Admin’s note: I received this post today from a YAR member. Though it is not normal practice to post unsigned articles here, I made an exception in this case due to safety concerns.

Every time my brother sabotages family plans or punches another hole through the wall, I just think that maybe all this is happening to me because I need to increase my sense of compassion…or to remember to concentrate as much energy on the tiny personal things as well as the political things. I don’t know.

He’s mentally ill and has a huge sense of entitlement, and he’s angry almost all the time. He scares the living daylights out of me. He has made our home an unsafe place to be, and manipulated my parents through brute strength and threats. (more…)